top of page
  • Trina Krieger

Fat Phobia: It's Not Really About Your Body

Updated: Jul 4, 2019

It’s not about thinness.

It’s not about fatness either.

We live in a culture that idealizes thinness. We are bombarded with messages about body, weight, size, beauty, etc., and we have internalized these messages. People have developed the idea that “fat is bad” and often make assumptions about those who live in these stigmatized bodies. Some of the assumptions include the following:

- Fat people must be over eating

- They are more at-risk for certain health conditions, such as heart attacks and diabetes

- Fat people could be thinner if they would just try harder

- They must be insecure

- They are “couch potatoes”

Fatness is seen as shameful, and people in these bodies bear the brunt of these projections. Because of these assumptions, it is as if their most vulnerable feelings are being worn on the outside.

Thin people are free from the burden of these assumptions, right?

Yes and no.

Thin people are just as likely to suffer from the internal experience of vulnerability; yet their social experience is different since they are more likely to live in fear (rather than in reality) that this vulnerability will be exposed. This fear leads to anxiety about food, or being viewed as “out of control” by others based on their food choices. They do not want to be perceived as “fat.” When they look at themselves in the mirror, they recognize their flawed internal selves looking back at them.

So, to be fat is to deal with people’s projections that you are a loser, and to be thin is to live in fear of exposure of your “inner-loserness.”

Of course, no one wants these assumptions to be made about them based on their body size. These assumptions about a person’s worth, health, and behaviors are incorrect. The following are some facts that may help to begin to challenge the toxic beliefs we have developed as a result of diet culture:

- Not all people who are fat overeat, and not all people who overeat are fat.

- The diseases that correlate with health conditions such as heart attacks and diabetes occur across the weight spectrum and are known to vary with many confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status, weight cycling, and physical activity.

- There is no known intervention that has provided evidence that a person can lose weight and keep it off long-term, including weight-loss surgery

- A person’s body is not an expression of how they feel about themselves

- When people make sustainable changes in their health practices, such as incorporating enjoyable physical activity without a focus on weight loss, they reduce or eliminate the risk of certain health conditions, whether or not they lose any weight at all. And many people who are fat are physically active.

Losing weight will not automatically make you feel better about yourself. This is a myth. Becoming thin does not make you into a person that you can now like. It does not make other people more kind. It does not prevent bad things from happening to you. It does not protect you from rejection.

No matter how much weight a person loses, there is still a part of them that identifies as fat. The associated feelings are not about fat at all, but rather the human experience of vulnerability.

So when you hear a person say that they want to lose weight, what they likely mean is that they want to be accepted, confident, and not discriminated against because of their body size. What they need is not a make over of their body, but of their mind.

We cannot begin to challenge the negative messages we have received about how our appearance is tied to our worth until we create a culture that celebrates a diversity of body sizes. All bodies are worthy of being loved and cared for. All people are worthy of feeling accepted and confident. All people are vulnerable and fear that their short comings will be exposed. No matter our size, we can choose to be kind to ourselves and others.

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

It’s not about thinness.

It’s not about fatness either.


bottom of page